Venezuela Police Disperse Protests for Second Time in a Week

  • Security forces use tear gas to halt march in Caracas
  • President Maduro says oppostion attempting to stoke violence

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Photographer: Carlos Becerra/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Venezuelan security forces used tear gas to turn back protesters in central Caracas for the second time in a week Wednesday as the opposition pushes its demands for the ousting of President Nicolas Maduro.

QuickTake Venezuela’s Revolution

Led by two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, demonstrations were held across the country to pressure the electoral board, or CNE, to process a petition to activate a recall referendum. The opposition accuses the government of stalling the process to avoid early elections.

A day after Capriles pleaded with security forces not to halt Wednesday’s march, calling it a “moment of truth” for them, the police in Caracas used armored vehicles to block streets and keep protesters more than a kilometer away from the CNE headquarters. The demonstrators banged on pots and pans, chanting “recall now!” before police dispersed the crowds with teargas.

Maduro “is using force in the belief that is going to stop us,” Capriles told supporters in the march. “Venezuelans must defend their rights” and demand that the CNE validate the petition and clears the way to a referendum on Maduro’s rule.

The embattled president declared a “state of exception” last week, which he said is needed to defend Venezuela from domestic and external threats. Maduro told reporters yesterday that while demonstrations were allowed under the decree, calls for violence and intimidation won’t bring about a referendum.

Falling Support

Discontent over a sinking economy and rampant crime sparked months of anti-government demonstrations that left dozens dead and hundreds injured two years ago. While the economic crisis has continued to worsen since then, the opposition’s calls to the street have met with a tepid response.

At the same time, the opposition has seen most of its legislative initiatives stonewalled by the Supreme Court, and its congressional majority largely ignored. Sidelined as the president rules by decree, Maduro said he thought congress’ days were numbered.

“The National Assembly has lost it’s political relevance,” he said. “It’s a question of time before it disappears.”

Yields Rise

Many fear a prolonged standoff will only aggravate the country’s current woes.

“Both sides are blind; they don’t see each other, they don’t talk,” said Carlos Romero, political scientist at the Central University of Venezuela. “All the while, the crisis worsens.”

The country’s benchmark dollar bond due in 2027 fell for the third day this
week, with the price declining 0.66 cent in New York to 42.67 cents on
the dollar, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The yield rose 34 basis
points to 24.28 percent.

Capriles, who has repeatedly called on people to protest peacefully, said Wednesday that more demonstrations were to come.

“As the failure of the opposition’s peaceful strategy to depose the president via democratic means becomes more apparent, the adoption of a confrontational strategy by more radical elements of the opposition will become a greater threat,” said Grant Sunderland, Latin America analyst at Verisk Maplecroft.

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